Ice Cube Says Hollywood Isn't Cool Enough, Adds: "I'm Ready to Run a Studio"
The filmmaker also explained why he won't be attending this year's Oscars during THR's interview series 'The Hollywood Masters.'
Hollywood still has progress to make, says actor-rapper-producer Ice Cube.
“It ain’t cool enough yet,” the Straight Outta Compton filmmaker said Feb. 19. “I mean, it’s still got gatekeepers. It’s got gatekeepers everywhere. Cool people still have a hard time showing what they got in Hollywood. And I’ve been fighting my whole career to show a different side. But there’s not enough Ice Cubes out there. There’s not enough Ice Cubes getting a chance to do their thing.”
Coming off the back-to-back successes of Compton and Ride Along 2, he added: “I’m ready to run a studio. I’m ready to green light movies, and be in it to win it.” He said, however, he had no intention of raising money outside the industry. “Then what you’re doing is fighting with your money to get back into the industry, or for them to use your money instead of their own. So, you got to figure out how to do it within the flow of the industry.”
Cube, who noted he won’t be attending the Feb. 28 Oscars, was speaking at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film & TV, where he took part in the ongoing Hollywood Masters interview series.
He described working on Compton when Suge Knight allegedly was involved in a hit-and-run that resulted in a man’s death. “I didn’t see it,” he said. “It was at another location. He had came to base camp first and then went to the other location. And then, we ended up leaving, and I heard about it on the freeway… I was just trying to make sense of it, trying to figure out who got hurt, who got hit, what was the facts? It was just fact checking. And, you know, I still didn’t believe what had happened. I just couldn’t believe that the day had started off so cool and somebody was dead.”
Cube also defended the recent, political symbolism of Beyoncé, especially in her Super Bowl appearance. “You’re starting to see people wanting, and artists starting to go back to having socially conscious flavor in their music, which is fine, which is cool,” he said. “You know, everybody’s giving Beyoncé a lot of shit, but she’s black. Who else is she supposed to represent?”
He recalled another black superstar, his friend Tupac Shakur. “Tupac, he was a cool dude. I met Tupac, he was still in Digital Underground. And he was just one of those dudes who’s always having fun. Bouncing off the walls. He was a kid in a candy store… [But] bad stuff kept following him. That's kind of how he felt. But deep down inside, he was a real just a fun dude.”
Asked where he was when Shakur was killed, he said: “I was at home. Me and my wife turned on the news in the morning and saw it, ’cause we had just watched the fight and we turned everything off and was into something totally different. And then the next morning, we was like, ‘Whoa. Tupac got shot at the fight.’ And it was just crazy. You know, I hear about people getting shot all the time. But most of the guys you hear about getting shot pulled through. You hear about them, like yo, but I thought he was going to do the same thing. So it was crazy that it didn’t happen.”
A full transcript follows.
ICE CUBE: What's up, man? How you all doing?
STEPHEN GALLOWAY: You got the biggest crowd, including Clint Eastwood. That's quite something.
CUBE: Oh that's cool, you know. Clint will catch up sooner or later.
GALLOWAY: So let’s go back. You’re 14 or 15 years old. You’re doing a typing class. And a friend says to you, “Have you ever written a rap lyric?” What did you write and how did that change your life?
CUBE: It was me and this kid named Kiddo. And he was one of the coolest kids in school. And we both found ourselves in this typing class, because we didn't go to our counselors early enough to get a good elective. Counselor's like, “You should have come to me. I had great things for you.” She had to find me. And what was left was, like, cooking, typing, classes like that.
GALLOWAY: Can you cook?
CUBE: No. [LAUGHTER] So I was trying to make the most of it. You know, I believe if you’re in school and you got to be there, you might as well get what they have to offer. I always tripped on people who go to school and just hang out and not learn shit. Oh, excuse me!
GALLOWAY: That's OK.
CUBE: Not learn, just go there to hang out. And I'm like, “You could have done that at home. You didn't even have to come to school for that.” So I always was like, “Yo, I'm here, I might as well get what I could take.” I was actually up to about 30 words a minute. Which is not great, but it's good when you don't think you’re ever going to type again. But Kiddo just turned, he's like, “Yo, you ever write a rap before?” 'Cause we were bored. Finished with our little exercise. And I said, “No.” And he said, “OK, you write one, I'll write one. We'll see which one's the best.” So the first line I ever wrote was” “My name is Ice Cube and I want you to know, I'm not Run DMC or Kurtis Blow.”
GALLOWAY: Right. I have it written on this piece of paper.
CUBE: Yeah, that's the first line I ever wrote.
GALLOWAY: I was going to tease you about it.
CUBE: I don't know the rest of the rap, but I know that line.
GALLOWAY: So what's fascinating is, you go from that to within a few years writing extraordinary lyrics, very original lyrics, you know, Boyz-N-The-Hood, other songs. Where did that gift come from?
CUBE: I've always gotten good grades, you know, with my teachers and my English teachers, 'cause I was able to — they'd [say], “What did you do for the summer?” I'm able to explain it to them in a written form. And my teachers always patted me on the back for that, being able to take what's in my mind and put it on paper. So it was a situation where rap was becoming big. It was very vivid. It was a lot of things going on in our neighborhoods that was different. You know, the '80s was wild compared to my real small childhood, which was late '70s. But the '80s was brand new. It was AIDS. It was gangbanging. It was starting to become big dope-dealing, and crack was starting to flood the neighborhoods. And then you had hip hop, which was something new, other than what we were doing, which was sports, playing football, basketball, baseball. And I was excited. But it was only a few people in our neighborhood that was really into hip hop at the time. And it was me and [Sir] Jinx, who was Dr. Dre's cousin.
GALLOWAY: That's right.
CUBE: You see him in the movie. I used to go down there and practice, trying to be dope. Trying to be fly. And the homies in the hood would clown me a lot for hanging out with Jinx. It's like, “OK, here come the Fat Boys. Here come Run DMC.” Any rapper that was out, that was me. Because they just didn't understand it. But I didn't care, you know, because hanging out, I had that. That was cool. But this was something new. And I started just writing about what I saw around me. What was going on. That's what my rhymes were — at their best, explaining what was going on with the people in the neighborhood. And that's kind of how I started to gain traction and gain people's attention, 'cause I would rap about the dude across the street, the fight that just happened on the corner. Or whatever happened in the neighborhood. That's what I was rapping about. And that sparked people's interest. And that's what kind of put me on that path.
GALLOWAY: How did you learn to make it better, to be not good but great? How did you go from that simple rap to the song people in our audience were just playing in the line outside?
CUBE: Dope Man?
GALLOWAY: Yes, Dope Man. They all know those lyrics. These have lasted 30 years or more. Did you have a mentor? Did anybody tell you how to improve your writing? Did you read?
CUBE: Not as much as I probably should have back then. It was just being fans of the greats, being fans of people like Melle Mel and Run DMC, and Ice-T was starting to come up, and this style was brewing. I just think we made it as vivid as you possibly could at the time. I think that's what made it stand out. You know, it was unapologetic. We didn't care if we got played on the radio. And these were things that were strange to the industry, that a group would come out and be so raw. They thought we were not trying to make it to the top. They thought we were just basically keeping ourselves underground on purpose. And it was just strange for people to approach music that way. And for rap, trying to get recognition, and be seen as a regular form of music like anything else. I mean, the Soul, R&B, Rock 'N Roll, they would dis the hell out of rap when it first came out.
CUBE: It was like, “This is not real music. What is this?” They said it was a fad. It was always discredited. So groups were trying to come out of that. Run DMC brought us out of that underground-only feel. They brought rap above ground and made it respectable as an art form to mainstream music. But everything else — or mostly everything up until then —was fighting to get recognition, and we were going the opposite way. When everybody was trying to go up, we were trying to go back down.
GALLOWAY: When you looked ahead at your future, what did you think it would be? At some point you actually left NWA and you went to study architectural drafting in Phoenix.
GALLOWAY: Did you think that was the path you were going to take?
CUBE: Well, it all happened at the same time. You got to understand, there wasn't any nationwide groups from the West Coast. Ice-T was starting to make noise nationwide, but he was still considered a L.A. rapper. So we didn't know how big, we didn't know if we were going to just be locals, and just people in the hood knew who we were. That's kind of how we expected it to be. We expected these records are so hard, they so raw, only people in our neighborhood know what we talking about. Only people in our neighborhood is going to like us. You know, we were happy with just being, you know, considered ghetto stars. We was happy with that, you know, 'cause that was better than who we were before that, anyway. So we never anticipated the music going into this nationwide phenomenon type of thing. So when we were making records, I was still thinking about my future. What am I going to do to make a living? And once again, my counselor ended up putting me in a drafting class, because I was too late to get regular electives.
CUBE: And so I end up liking it. I was like, yo, this is something cool to get into. So I went for a year to Phoenix to a trade school to learn architectural drafting, just in case this music thing didn't work out.
GALLOWAY: What did your parents think of all this? Because they had steady jobs. Did they both work at U.C.L.A.?
CUBE: My father worked at a company called Western Brassworks. And he was a machinist, fixing machines, and then that company closed down. Then he ended up being a groundskeeper at U.C.L.A. My Mother was a custodian at U.C.L.A. And they was happy I was doing anything but getting in trouble. It was like they didn't understand rap music.
GALLOWAY: Did they like your music?
CUBE: Not at first. [LAUGHS] My mother kept saying, “Why do you got to cuss so much? Why you got to talk so bad?” And it was like, “Things are bad. Things need to be said. And they got to be said in the right way.” You know, you can't pussyfoot around. When you're talking to lions, you can't meow like a pussycat. That was my attitude. And she was just happy that I wasn't selling dope, breaking in houses, gangbanging, full time.
GALLOWAY: Does it bother you that all those problems still exist in South Central L.A.?
CUBE: Yeah. I mean, it bothered me then, it bothers me now. To me, it's unnecessary. A lot of the situations that happen are very unnecessary. It don’t have to be like this.
GALLOWAY: How could it change?
CUBE: A lot of attitudes have to change on both sides of the spectrum. A lot of attitudes in the hood got to change. A lot of attitudes out the hood got to change. A lot of barriers got to be broken down. You know, I believe our society has fell into a pyramid system where there's people relegated to the bottom of that pyramid and there's people that feel like they're entitled to the top of that pyramid. And that has to change for us to change.
GALLOWAY: Which side do you identify with now? Because you are at the top of the pyramid.
CUBE: I still identify with the bottom of the pyramid, because, outside of having money, I am at the bottom of the pyramid.
CUBE: You know, just being black in this society, you always have to prove your worth. And so, even being in this position, you only as good as your last movie or your last record. Then people want to send you right back to the bottom. So I never look at it like that, because I wasn't born into this. I'm the most successful person in my generation of family members, and that sucks. You know what I'm saying? Because we should have more.
GALLOWAY: You have an older brother, right?
GALLOWAY: You had a younger half sister.
CUBE: Mm-hmm. Well she was, she's a older half sister. Yeah.
GALLOWAY: Oh. But she died?
CUBE: Yeah, she was murdered by her husband.
CUBE: Yeah. And he was obsessed with being a police officer. He was obsessed with it. And he didn't make it. And from then on, he just went into this depression and shit.
GALLOWAY: How old were you when that happened?
CUBE: About 13.
GALLOWAY: And how did that influence you?
CUBE: You know, it made me realize the world was serious. It was like, nothing was as fun after that as it was before. Playing, hanging out, nothing was as fun as it used to be after that happened.
GALLOWAY: Which is interesting, because the films you've made have largely been comedies. Why?
CUBE: Well, you know, with the neighborhood I come from, the place black people find themselves in, it's hard enough, it's rough enough. The real is always presented. That hardcore record or movie is not needed in the hood, because it's already there. You can see it with your own eyes. So I think when somebody goes to the movies and they spend their money and they take the girl out, the family, they want to have a good time. You don't always want to be hit over the head with history or how bad society is. When you’re spending your money for a nice outing, you want to go have a good time. And I always thought comedies, laughing, was something that was made for entertainment on that level. And records and maybe TV and stuff like that is really made to be heavy. You pay to have a good time, you don't always want to pay to be schooled or sad or reminded how bad you got it. You know, to me a movie theater ain't always the place for that.
GALLOWAY: When you're on your own, what do you watch, listen to, when you're at home?
CUBE: I'll watch anything on. You know what I mean? News, ESPN, stay on ESPN. I watch some of the reality shows.
GALLOWAY: Which ones?
CUBE: I'm into the survival [ones]. Alaskan Bear Family. That kind of stuff. I like Dirty Jobs. I like that. I love Dirty Jobs. And How It's Made. I'm interested in how things are put together, and that's more interesting to me than just regular shows, even though I like The Walking Dead.
GALLOWAY: Dr. Dre was asked an interesting question a few years ago. Somebody said if you were sitting opposite your 19-year-old self, would you like him? So I'm going to ask you: if you were sitting across from the 19-year-old Ice Cube, would you like him and what advice would you give him?
CUBE: Yeah, I would like him. And if I was sitting across from a younger version of me, what advice would I give him? Keep doing what you're doing. Keep doing what you're doing. I was trying to get to this point. To be a person who kept the interest of the public when it comes to entertainment. Whether it's a record or a movie. And, you know, I've been around a lot longer than most rappers stay around. So I don't feel like, I haven't made too many career mistakes.
CUBE: I feel like I'm in a good place, so…
GALLOWAY: You've been married a long time.
GALLOWAY: Your wife Kim, if I said to her, what would surprise me about Ice Cube, what would she say?
CUBE: I don't know. It'd probably surprise me what she would say.
GALLOWAY: Ask her when you go home tonight.
CUBE: I'll ask her that. That's going to be my question. I don't know. As a husband, I'm a true partner. I don't believe one person should have dominance over another. I don't think people should try to force their will on their family. I think it's a thing where it's a partnership and you want somebody to have your back and your front and your side. And not have to make them do it. Our household is built on love and respect. And we don't really let negative vibes stay too long. It's worked out. I got a great family, great kids.
GALLOWAY: What drew you to her?
CUBE: She was not only strong but beautiful and kind of cut from the same cloth that I'm cut from. She grew up on the east side of L.A. You know, I'm from the west side of L.A. She has everything I don't and I have everything she don't. And we work great together.
GALLOWAY: So you're 16 years old and Jinx introduces you to Dr. Dre. And within a short time, you formed NWA.
CUBE: Yeah. I was 14.
GALLOWAY: I thought you were 16 when you met him?
CUBE: Fourteen when I met Dre.
GALLOWAY: How does the name NWA come about? And who created it?
CUBE: It's between Eazy and Dre and I think D.O.C. had something to do with that, who's a rapper out of Dallas. And I actually heard that this other kid who we used to work with named Yo-Mo and Marky. I used to go to school with Yo-Mo. You know, both of them actually went to school with me out at Taft. They was bussed, too.
GALLOWAY: Right, 'cause you went to a Christian school in the Valley.
CUBE: No, as a kid, I went to Hawthorne Christian School. I don't even know if it's still there. And then I went to Central Park Elementary. And then I was bussed to Hughes Junior High and they closed that school. I had to go to Parkman. And then to Taft.
GALLOWAY: That's a lot of schools.
CUBE: Yeah, yeah, it was a few. I met Dre when I was 14. And with Yo-Mo and Marky, I heard they was just standing around one day trying to figure it out. And somebody said it should be initials or something that people have to figure out. And we start throwing around names and somehow Niggaz With Attitudes stuck. And they came and brought it to me. They came and picked me up. I didn't have a car back then. So they came and picked me up and it was like, here's the name of the group, NWA. And I was like, what the hell? [LAUGHTER] That's initials, man. That ain't, it's not the name of nothing. Then they told me what it was and I was like, yeah. [LAUGHS]
GALLOWAY: Do you remember any other names you thought of?
CUBE: No. Because we wasn't even really intending on being a group. We were just the best parts of our groups. Like, doing records on the side. These hardcore records were like side records that we never thought —
GALLOWAY: So were you still with C.I.A. at that time or…?
CUBE: Yeah. We all had to kind of leave the groups we were in to form this mega-group, and Eazy would always call it an all-star group. And I'm like, well none of us are all-stars. [LAUGHTER] None of us are known. But he would be like, this is a all star group. And that's how we formed. We had cool records and it was like, yo, we had to name these, we had to name them something. You got to take a picture. And we had to show some unity. These records are starting to be hot.
GALLOWAY: Eazy didn't like the lyrics for Boyz-N-The-Hood when you first wrote them. Why not?
CUBE: Well, he loved them, it was a group he had that hated them. He had a group called H.B.O. And there wasn't a lot of West Coast national groups. So we felt like these rappers are from New York. They got a better chance to blow up than us. 'Cause we're here. And they got the name Queens and this, that and the other. So we was investing our efforts into making them hot. 'Cause Eazy felt like that would be the key for Ruthless to blow up, was to have New York rappers on his label. But when they heard the lyrics, they just were, they were horrified. They was like, what are you talking about? What is a '64?
CUBE: They said, we don't understand nothing you talking about, man. We can't do this song. So they kind of got mad and left the studio. 'Cause Eric had spent all this money and no records were being made. So that's when Dre just was like, yo, why don't you do it? And so that got the ball rolling of just even considering Eazy as a rapper.
GALLOWAY: Jerry Heller, who became the group's manager, said that Eazy was the most Machiavellian person he ever met. Was that true?
CUBE: You talking about Tupac? [LAUGHS]
GALLOWAY: You tell us.
CUBE: Give me your definition of Machiavellian.
GALLOWAY: Very manipulative, very calculating, prepared to be amoral. Would you agree with that? They didn't all say yes, so maybe I'm wrong.
CUBE: I think Eazy would do what it takes. That's how I can describe him. He would do it, whatever it took. And I don't consider that stepping on anybody, but, you know, he was never held down by moral compass. He was straight from the streets, so anything goes. And that's the attitude he kind of had.
GALLOWAY: Were you held down by a moral compass?
CUBE: Yeah. There's things I won't do. There's just things I won't do. Places I won't go.
GALLOWAY: Such as?
CUBE: I won't do anything for money. I won't compromise my manhood. I won't lay down my principles for any kind of recognition or any kind of position or trying to be more famous. It's just not in me. I'd rather be a man. And then to have all this crazy stuff on my conscience.
GALLOWAY: One thing I think is incredibly interesting about you is: here you are, you're in N.W.A.— and then you find out you're not being paid properly. You've been paid $32,000. $32,000 to a kid who's — I don't know if you were even 20 at that point — is a lot of money.
CUBE: It is.
GALLOWAY: You’ve been working valet-parking downtown. So I presume you're paid a few bucks per hour. Suddenly, $32,000.
GALLOWAY: And yet you said no and walked away. That's incredibly brave. How did you do that?
CUBE: Well, I mean, $32,000 sounds like a lot of money until you found out that a million five was brought into the group. [LAUGHS] It's all a lot of money till you start doing the math, and realize you're not getting what you're supposed to get. Jerry Heller offered me $75,000, you know, at a time when I was like, man, anybody in my family, if they knew I turned down that much money.
CUBE: So I was at a point where it was principle. When you know something is wrong. The way I grew up and the neighborhood I come from, when you know somebody's beating you and you still let it happen, then you're a victim. You're no longer a man when you know something is happening and you don't stand up. So that's just how we raised. And so I knew that. I knew that there was more money than that that was supposed to come my way. So taking that would just be like giving away a piece of my manhood. Knowing that we were supposed to get more and me not protesting. And not saying, hold up, wait a minute, this isn't right. And I needed the money. But money comes and goes, but your inner feelings, your gut feelings, your manhood, your womanhood, whatever, that stays with you. That don't go anywhere. So you either proud of who you are and how you handle situations or you not. If you handle a situation wrong, you, it will haunt you.
GALLOWAY: Have you done anything that's haunted you?
CUBE: Of course. You know, you make moves. I mean, I don't want to sit here and admit all my failures, but —
GALLOWAY: Well, tell us one of them.
CUBE: I think, compared to the real world, it's nothing. But I fired an agent right before a movie was supposed to come out. And I think it really affected how the movie was marketed. And I think I took backlash, 'cause he was a pretty big agent.
CUBE: It's like you learn that Hollywood has its own rules, sometimes. And it's tricky, and sometimes you can't see what's coming around the corner. I learned a lot from that.
GALLOWAY: Do you like Hollywood?
GALLOWAY: Why not?
CUBE: It ain't cool enough yet. I mean, it's still got gatekeepers. It's got gatekeepers everywhere. Cool people still have a hard time showing what they got in Hollywood. And I've been fighting my whole career to show a different side and prove naysayers — not prove them wrong, because I don't think you should get your energy from negative people, like, “He don't believe in me so I'm doing it. That's the wrong approach. You should just do it 'cause you feel like you the shit and you can do it. [LAUGHTER] Not “He don’t believe in me. Now I'm doing it.” No. So I just wanted to show, you could make great movies out here. You don't have to spend $200 million or $100 million to make a great movie. And people can make money, have fun, enjoy it. Show a different side of life. But there’s not enough Ice Cubes out there. There’s not enough Ice Cubes getting a chance to do their thing. And hopefully my example will break down more doors.
GALLOWAY: What did you think when you heard the Oscar nominations this year?
CUBE: I wasn't surprised. Of course, you're a little disappointed. I mean, you want the industry to finally admit that you're good. You see what I mean? But I'm still good without their admission. It would have been cool. It would have been nice. That's about it, cool and nice. It's like the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame. It's cool. It's nice. It's like Rock 'N Roll finally caught up to what the hell we were doing. It wasn't like I feel, “Aw, man, I've made it.” I feel like they've made it. They finally understand that we are Rock 'N Roll, we the essence of it. It took the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame 30 years to figure it out. So it might take Hollywood another 30 years to figure it out.
GALLOWAY: I was disappointed. I loved Straight Outta Compton.
CUBE: Me too.
GALLOWAY: And I was telling our producer, if you haven't seen the director's cut, it's so good. It’s one of those movies where you see it a second time and it's actually even better than the first time. I didn't realize that F. Gary Gray directed —
GALLOWAY: And before Friday, didn't he do one of your music videos?
CUBE: He did It Was a Good Day.
GALLOWAY: Right. It's so beautifully directed.
CUBE: Yeah, he's a great director. He's a great director.
GALLOWAY: Before we come to your first film, I want to pick up on what you said, so tell us about Tupac.
CUBE: Oh Tupac, man, he was a cool dude, you know. I met Tupac, he was still in Digital Underground. And he was just one of those dudes who's always having fun. Bouncing off the walls, you know. He was a kid in a candy store. I remember one time we were touring and you just hear knocking, bamming on my door. It's 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. I'm sleeping. And it's Tupac. Mad that I'm asleep. “What are you doing asleep, man? It's going down downstairs. You need to come on,” you know. I'm like, “Dude, I'm tired. We got more shows tomorrow.” I just remember him just always [being] the life of the party. And then a couple things started happening in his life that made him lash out a little bit at the fame. Just because he was just one of the most misunderstood dudes, you know. He'd be cool as hell and then you be hearing like, 'Pac, man, I heard you just shot at some cops last week.
GALLOWAY: You asked him, did you?
CUBE: Yeah. He's like, “Yeah, you know, it was crazy.” He's like, bad stuff kept following him. That's kind of how he felt. But deep down inside, he was a real just a fun dude. Not as crazy as Chris Tucker in Friday [LAUGHS] but fun and laughing. Anybody that really knew Tupac will tell you the same thing. That he was just a dude that was full of life, full of energy.
GALLOWAY: Were you shocked when he was killed?
CUBE: Yeah. I was.
GALLOWAY: Where were you when you heard?
CUBE: I was at home. Me and my wife turned on the news in the morning and saw it, 'cause we had just watched the fight and we turned everything off and was into something totally different. And then the next morning, we was like, “Whoa. Tupac got shot at the fight.” And it was just crazy. You know, I hear about people getting shot all the time. But most of the guys you hear about getting shot pulled through. You hear about them, like yo, but I thought he was going to do the same thing. So it was crazy that it didn't happen.
GALLOWAY: When you were with NWA, particularly in Detroit when the police attacked you, were you scared?
CUBE: Yeah. Yeah. We had got a lot of venom the whole time from law enforcement. I mean, they would pull us to the side and threaten us and give us the evil eye. Frisk us, harass us, go through our stuff, almost every stop. And I felt like, OK, they getting tired of us to the point where they going to do something or they want something to happen. So when we heard those bangs, we actually thought it was the cops shooting at us onstage while we was performing. That's why we took off running like that, because —
GALLOWAY: And by the way, we're going to see the clip from this later on so —
CUBE: It was a thing where our lives had been threatened on the tour. Eazy started wearing a bulletproof vest. It was just crazy times and so we didn't know what they were going to do. We didn't know how they were going to confront us. So we heard them shots, and then this semi-riot break out in this arena. You think, man, if they get us, if they get any of us, somebody's going to get hurt, even if it's just a broken arm, busted lip, whatever. You know, somebody going to get hurt in this situation.
GALLOWAY: When you left NWA, Dre was with Suge Knight, who was not the most peaceable guy, and you'd moved to New York at some point.
CUBE: Well, I went there to work on a record. I came right back. I didn't stay there for a long time.
GALLOWAY: Were you worried there'd be violence from their side?
CUBE: Against me?
CUBE: Yeah, I think we both was worried about that. You know, both sides were straight out the neighborhood and we had problems with each other. We were looking for whatever was coming our way, whether it was fisticuffs, even gunplay. We were ready for everything, 'cause we dealing with a street element. You know, everybody's not a polished entertainer at this point. People are still tied to their hoods, and it's usually not the artist, it's usually the friends and instigators who get it popping. So everybody's worried and it jumped off a few different times. And we were able to squash it. And thank God nobody got seriously hurt.
GALLOWAY: Are you friends with Dre again now?
CUBE: Yeah. Real cool.
GALLOWAY: Are you going to have an NWA reunion?
CUBE: It's on him. You know, Dre's the producer of NWA So he always know I'm down. And whenever he's ready, I'm ready.
GALLOWAY: I think at Coachella you said there might be a reunion.
CUBE: I'm [going to] try to get many of them back on stage with me.
GALLOWAY: You are?
CUBE: Yeah. So we'll see, you know. I know a few of them coming but we'll see if all of them come.
GALLOWAY: When will it be?
CUBE: April 16.
GALLOWAY: Oh wow. So you leave NWA, you do Amerikka's Most Wanted and then you have this incredible shift where you move into film. Let's take a look at a clip from what's really a classic film now. 25 years ago. Boyz N the Hood.
GALLOWAY: Still looking good, really good.
CUBE: It definitely holds up.
GALLOWAY: Do you remember shooting that scene?
CUBE: Yeah. I remember shooting that scene.
GALLOWAY: Where was it shot? Was it easy?
CUBE: It was shot right there, man, close to Crenshaw. I gotta remember the exact street, but it's right off of Crenshaw by Highland. I feel like, this is my first performance. Everybody wish they'd do better on their first performance. But for the most part, it was great. It was great to do a character like Doughboy, because it was the first time we showed the world that these kids out of these neighborhoods have hearts and they’re real people and they're not just statistics that you see on the news. 'Cause before movies like Boyz N the Hood, the only time you'll somebody like Doughboy was when they was talking about the gangbanging epidemic or crack epidemic. You see him getting pushed into the back of a police car, but you never knew their story. Why are they like this? What happens? What's going on? And Boyz N the Hood was the first time we were able to show the world why. Why these kids are coming out so hard.
GALLOWAY: You turned it down when John Singleton approached you. I think he was 20 years old.
GALLOWAY: And then in the end, you had to audition. Why were you not interested at first?
CUBE: I felt like I wasn't qualified. I felt like, I'm not an actor, man, what do you want me for? And he was a intern at The Arsenio Hall Show. And I was there to talk to Arsenio. And here come this dude, this young intern, telling me he want to put me in a movie. And I'm not even a actor. So I'm like, “Dude, you know, you got the wrong guy.” But he was like, “No, you the right guy.” So he kept pursuing me. I seen him every year, it seemed like. First time I seen him, he said, “I'm a junior at U.S.C. I got this movie you're perfect for. And whenever I graduate, you going to be the guy.” I'm like, “Yeah, right, whatever.” Then I seen him a year later, he like, “Yo, I'm a senior. At U.S.C. I got this movie you're perfect for.” “OK, man.” And then I didn't see him or hear from him for another year and a half. And then my manager said, “Somebody want to put you in a movie.” And I'm like, “What? Who? Why?” — still thinking like, I haven't went to Julliard. How can I be an actor? So then when I went in, I just didn't take it serious at all. I folded up the paper, put it in my pocket. I feel bad telling this story for all the struggling actors that's trying their hardest to get into a movie. I didn't take it serious. I was trying to be the best rapper in the world. I wasn't thinking about acting. So, when I went in to audition, I looked and it's him. He comes around the corner. “Remember me?”
CUBE: I'm like, “Oh yeah. Oh damn, you were serious.” He's like, “Yeah. Yeah, I was serious. You the one.” So I audition and I was terrible. I was terrible. And he looked at me and he was like, “Man, did you read my script?” I said, “No.” [LAUGHTER] I just read these pages they gave me in the car just a few minutes ago. So, he was like, “You're terrible, man.” I said, “OK.” And he said, “I'm a give you one more shot though, 'cause I still think you're the right guy. Go home and read my script. Then you'll figure out the kind of movie I'm trying to shoot. And then come back tomorrow. We'll give you one more screen test.” And that's how it happened. When I read the script, I'm like, “Damn, they making a movie about our neighborhood. How we grew up. I never knew that was interesting enough to make a movie about.” So I totally got it. I totally was into it. And I went there and did a pretty good job.
GALLOWAY: And now it doesn't date. You could make that film today and it would be as valid.
CUBE: Yeah. That's the sad part. But for real, yeah.
GALLOWAY: So then you continue this dual path. And what's interesting is, you continue with your solo albums. Some of them became very controversial. It's interesting, because when I've read interviews you with you over the years, you seem to be incredibly non-judgmental as a person. And very aware of your own faults and the world's faults. When you look back, you wrote lyrics that were accused of being misogynistic, anti-Semitic. And by the way, I read those and that particular thing was exaggerated. But there was certainly a sense of you being against other people in the world. How do you look back on those lyrics?
CUBE: I look back at them as time capsules of space and time and thought and expression. But also, I look at the situation where if you really look at my lyrics, nobody's exempt. Nobody's exempt from observation, criticism or what I think is correction. You know, I believe every pencil has to be sharpened every now and then to stay sharp, or you dull out. So my records, I chose to speak on what black people do, what white people do, what women do, what men do.
CUBE: Everybody. I’m always open, and will criticize myself, too. And I just think being that honest with everybody puts you in a different space than somebody who’s just shooting venom at a certain group or a certain amount of individuals. You know, every race, every gender, whatever, has the crazy people. You know what I mean? It’s like every race has their version of crazy, stupid people, you know? And, nobody’s exempt from that, and so I always chose to be a rapper who speak on things as well as entertain. To me it’s called “street knowledge.” And I like to tell the streets what the political climate is, and I like to tell any politicians that’s listening what the streets think. And sometimes people get nicked up and bruised up, but I usually have a lot of good medicine for that, too.
GALLOWAY: Which politician do you like today?
CUBE: None of them. I don’t really like none of them. That is a shame.
CUBE: Yeah, I mean I like Obama, but I understand that his hands are tied, the way Congress is reacting. It’s just partisan politics everywhere, and don’t know how we going to get things done in the future without compromising a little bit. I mean, everybody in the world has to compromise. I don’t know one person that gets everything they want, so the politicians are going to have to figure that out and stop pointing out, “He shook hands with a Democrat in 1989. He ate with a Republican last week.” It’s petty high school, even junior high stuff going on. It’s junior high politics going on, so it’s a shame.
GALLOWAY: It also doesn’t allow you to change, because we all change so much. “Well, you did this 20 years ago.” “Yes, but 20 years ago I was a really different person.”
GALLOWAY: Who keeps you sharp?
CUBE: I think my wife keeps me sharp. My wife keeps me sharp. You know, she ain't going to let me get comfortable with this “Ice Cube” stuff. [LAUGHS]
GALLOWAY: What does she call you when you’re at home? “Cube” or —
GALLOWAY: She does?
CUBE: Yeah. Or “Baby,” or whatever.
GALLOWAY: When you said, “Not everybody gets what they want,” what have you not had that you would want?
CUBE: I’m ready to run a studio. I’m ready to green light movies, and be in it to win it, you know? It’s close. It’ll happen.
GALLOWAY: You could go and raise the money to do that.
CUBE: You can go raise the money outside of the industry, and then what you’re doing is fighting with your money to get back into the industry, or for them to use your money instead of their own. So, you got to figure out how to do it within the flow of the industry. That way, people don’t feel like just outside money is coming in that’s —
GALLOWAY: You said something fascinating once, which is: you said, “At some point, you have to attach yourself to the machine.”
CUBE: I think you have to find how the machine can work for you. That’s what I mean by “attaching yourself to the machine,” ’cause the machine is going to be there, and you can rage against the machine, which is cool, but there’s ways that you can benefit off the machine if you’re savvy enough and you’re sharp enough, smart enough. We all got to live and eat. You know, money is the root of all evil. Yeah, money is the root. It’s not racism and “this-ism” and “that-ism”; it’s our thirst and hunger for money. And that’s where all the bodies are buried.
GALLOWAY: That’s very biblical.
GALLOWAY: You did join the Nation of Islam at some point.
CUBE: Well, I don’t consider myself ever joining, you know? But I have affiliations, for sure.
CUBE: I definitely know the minister Honorable Louis Farrakhan. But I don’t really believe in organized religion like that. I don’t know what it does for people in the long run. I think people, if you really want to be happy, you have to find God yourself, and you’re going to have to have a personal, one-on-one relationship and not look to get to him through these traditions or these rituals and all this crazy stuff when you could talk to him right here, right now, anytime, anywhere, any place, from any position. And that’s the kind of relationship you want, not a standard.
GALLOWAY: Do you read the Bible?
CUBE: Not as much as I probably should.
GALLOWAY: Do you have a favorite part of it.
CUBE: I guess it’s the part when he invented people.
GALLOWAY: [LAUGHS] It’s a good part.
CUBE: Yeah, it’s the best part.
GALLOWAY: So, one thing that’s fascinating about you is: these reinventions in your career. You go from being a guy who’s going to become an architect to a rapper. You leave the group to become solo. You then become an actor. And then, you go from this very serious drama to comedy. And, this one’s become a classis, so let’s take a look at Friday.
GALLOWAY: Did you laugh when you were shooting it?
CUBE: Oh, yeah. We had a ball shooting it. We shot that movie in 20 days. Like, four weeks, five days a week, weekends off, really hitting it, and the reason why we did Friday was because anybody that’s from any neighborhood, you know, a big part of the neighborhood is laughing, having fun. It’s not always this, I guess, mobile prison, or whatever you want to call it. It’s fun sometimes, and we wanted to show that, ’cause with movies like Boyz n the Hood and “Menace II Society — I guess all these movies might be before some of y’all time —
GALLOWAY: I think they’ve all seen them, right? Yes.
CUBE: — movies like that show one side of the hood, but didn’t show enough of how much fun we had, so we wanted to do a movie that was still talking about the neighborhood, but the fun we had with all the crazy stuff that was happening. And that’s how Friday started to germinate and come alive.
GALLOWAY: Barbershop is similar; they’re both very rooted in place.
CUBE: Yeah. There’s things people say in the barbershop they won't even say in their own living room, because it’s just one of those zones where nobody’s going to judge you too much about your dumb opinion, you know what I mean? Just have an opinion. So it was cool to bring that to the big screen. And to show that black people don’t all think alike. You throw any subject in the air, and we’re all going to have different opinions on it. It’s not like we all heard the same way, and it was cool to show in a movie us arguing about who’s doing it right and who’s not.
GALLOWAY: You said at one point that life when you grew up was 80 percent fun and wonderful and 20 percent hell.
GALLOWAY: The movies focus on the 80 percent wonderful, maybe there’s 20 percent hell in them, too.
CUBE: Yeah, there’s some little hell in there going on.
GALLOWAY: I think the scene right after this is when you go in and get the gun.
CUBE: It’s drive-by shootings, it’s breaking into houses, it’s the neighborhood bully. It’s some hardcore stuff going on, but as a youngster looking at that stuff, if you don’t laugh sometime you’ll cry, so we try to make the most of it even though it was crazy situations.
GALLOWAY: Were you popular growing up?
CUBE: Yeah. And it wasn’t because I was cool or nothing like that. It was just having a name like O’Shea, everybody knew who you was. Wasn’t nobody that didn’t know who that was, ’cause it was just a unusual name.
GALLOWAY: Named after O.J. Simpson, right?
CUBE: Well, in a way. I was born in 1969. O.J. Simpson won the Heisman trophy in 1969, and something about that “O.J.”/“O’Shea” she just liked, and that’s how I got the name.
GALLOWAY: Did ever meet him?
CUBE: Never. Never met him.
GALLOWAY: Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met?
CUBE: Bob Marley. I would love to meet Bob Marley. I mean, he’s passed, but that’s somebody that I would’ve loved to meet.
GALLOWAY: Of the people not around, is there anybody you feel regrets about? Eazy-E died in 1995. Is there anybody else where you feel you have a relationship that you’d like to restore, or something to say to them?
CUBE: Ah man, Tupac, Biggie.
GALLOWAY: What would you say to Tupac?
CUBE: Man, you know, you one of the greatest to ever pick up a mic just by coming from the heart, by truly coming from the heart. So those are big-time minuses and misses for us. We lose a whole lot with them not being around.
GALLOWAY: When you were in NWA, did you think that would become historic, as important as it has become?
CUBE: No. No, you know, I just thought we was doing stuff so hard people would never give us credit. I’m not talking about the real people; I’m talking about the industry. I’m talking about the people that do all these awards that the public think, “Oh, you getting one of those. You must be doing something good.” That part of the industry, I wouldn’t have never thought that that part of the industry would accept NWA. I thought we would just be a group for the people only.
GALLOWAY: You walked out of the Grammy Awards the other day.
CUBE: [LAUGHS] Is that considered a walkout?
GALLOWAY: I don’t know.
CUBE: I never go to the Grammys. I just never go. I don’t know if I care enough, and I went because my son wanted to go, and they asked us to present Best Hip Hop Group of the Year. You know, we had two records from Compton in there, and it was just like a cool thing to do, and to do with your son, and it was just cool. But we was the first award up, so after I did my thing I just jumped in the car and came on back home.
GALLOWAY: You go there and you’re stuck for hours. And, you’re hungry. I’m sure many of you will get nominated for things. Take a sandwich.
CUBE: Eat before you go, definitely. You know, it’s always people there you want to meet, say “What’s up” to. But, for the most part, it’s a drag, and it’s a thing where you know that you’re kind of being used, in a way, because they only want you there because —
GALLOWAY: You’re using them, too. It’s a mutual thing.
CUBE: Well, not if you’re not winning nothing, you ain't using them. [LAUGHTER] You just there. But they want to tell the advertisers that “Beyoncé is here, and Rihanna, and this one and that one.” And they’ll know people are going to all watch, and so you start feeling that. You start feeling like, “You just want me here so your advertisers won't cuss you out ’cause we didn’t come.” [LAUGHS]
GALLOWAY: Are you going to the Oscars?
CUBE: No. I never go.
GALLOWAY: Have you ever been?
CUBE: No, I’ve never been. Never been, that stuff is not why I’m in it.
CUBE: No, I’m in it to do cool stuff, and for the people.
GALLOWAY: Oh wow, that’s great.
CUBE: Thank you, man. Because nobody care. When you go to a movie, you don’t care for one Oscar, really. Do you care if a guy got a Oscar on the shelf or is it a good movie? And, you don’t care how much the movie made. Do you like it? A good movie is a movie that you could see over and over again, not a movie that wins a Oscar, or a movie that makes a lot of money. It’s a movie that you personally can watch over and over again. That, to me, is a measure of a good movie.
GALLOWAY: Well, let’s take a look at one of the greatest American films in the past 20 years, by David O. Russell. This is a clip from Three Kings.
GALLOWAY: It’s so great.
CUBE: Yeah, it is pretty good.
GALLOWAY: How did this come about? How did you meet David O. Russell?
CUBE: He just called me in, and I guess, seeing some of my other films, he wanted me to be Chief, and it was cool to get in there and have a chance to work with Mark Wahlberg for the first time, and George Clooney. To me, it was a big step in my career doing this movie because I had done movies that were basically neighborhood kind-of driven, you know? And this was something that was upper-echelon Hollywood, doing a movie with George Clooney at the time it was just right for my career to take another step.
GALLOWAY: George and David did not get on well during this shoot, pretty famously.
GALLOWAY: Were you there for all their battles?
CUBE: Yeah, I was there.
GALLOWAY: How did you handle that?
CUBE: I just sat back and watched the show, man. You don't get in the way. Sometimes just kick back. I just think it was a problem with style, you know? I don’t think George was David O. Russell’s first choice, which is always bad, when the studios force a actor on a director. Director has somebody else in his head to star in this role, and the studios say, “No, we like this guy. Use him.” That’s always tricky. So, I felt good ‘’cause David wanted me.
CUBE: But it was pretty tough.
GALLOWAY: Did you find his style of directing manageable? Because it’s very impressionistic. I don’t know if he’d quite become who he became, where he’s talking during the scene —
CUBE: Yeah. [LAUGHS]
GALLOWAY: Some people like that, some people don’t.
CUBE: You know, you got to get used to it. You got to get used to somebody, when you’re acting or going through a scene, somebody yelling, “Do it a little louder!” OK, you do it a little louder. “Just a little lower! Go a little lower!” [LAUGHS] Yeah, somebody shooting out directions as you’re going, it could frustrate some actors. George Clooney, I remember at the time, he had to have all these technical terms that he had to remember in his head, because he was helping people with medical shot-up, or whatever, and it’s hard for people to just be chiming in while you’re trying to remember these lines, so it just got to a point where they got too frustrated with each other. And it was just a crazy day because it was a big day. We had helicopters and hundreds of extras, and it was this big scene, where we were trying to cross the border. And a extra was out of place, and David kind of grabbed the guy and put him in place, and George got mad that David put his hands on the actor. And it just went from there.
GALLOWAY: You then went and did more comedies, Barbershop and thenRide Along, and you just have a sequel. What’s your working relationship with Kevin Hart like?
CUBE: Very cool. Kevin is very cool. He’s exactly what you see. A ball of energy, always funny. I mean, always funny. Some comedians you work with, they only turn on when the camera turn on, and they’re like sad-faced clowns when the camera’s off. And then, they come alive when the camera come on. And you be like, “Oh, damn. You’re not a depressed ball of depression, but you are actually funny.” But some dudes just wear it; that’s them. You know, Kevin Hart is like that, and Mike Epps is like that, and some dudes are just crazy as hell. I told Mike Epps that if he had any sense he wouldn’t be funny. [LAUGHS] So, he has no sense, and that makes him funny.
GALLOWAY: Are you doing a Ride Along 3?
CUBE: I hope so. You know something I don’t know?
GALLOWAY: No. [LAUGHS] I’m asking you. You were at one point.
CUBE: Have you heard from the studio?
GALLOWAY: No. You were at one point going to make another film with David O. Russell.
CUBE: Yeah, yeah. I just think with the film industry, what happens is you want to have a lot of things developed here and there, ’cause you never know what’s going to make it all the way to the top and get green lit. So when you got a idea, and you really in the mix, every producer or every writer is trying to hook a star with their idea, because a idea without a star, or without that element, is going to be hard to get made. Without somebody attached, it’s just a idea, but when you got somebody attached to it, then it can be a movie, you know what I mean? The people that fund and sponsor the movies will see, “OK. Oh, you have this movie with Brad Pitt attached. OK, I see that can happen. You have this movie with this actor attached.” But if you don’t have anybody attached, it might just be a script that go on the shelf. So you try to attach, you meet with people. “Hey, I got this great idea. Are you into it?” “Yeah, I’m into it.” So, now you can go tell people, “I have David O. Russell attached to direct this.”
GALLOWAY: So this is your project that you had David O. Russell attached to?
CUBE: No, it was a David O. Russell project that he wanted to attach me to. And then, by attaching it to somebody, you’re hoping it gets through the process a lot faster, that it gets to the second level, which is: make the script people like. Then you budget it, and see if it’s going to cost the amount of money they want to spend, and then [see] what other directors and stars you can try to clump onto it to make it a real movie.
GALLOWAY: I want you to walk us through the process of the last film we’re going to talk about, Straight Outta Compton, which is really dazzling filmmaking. This is a clip from the real-life incident we talked about: what happened in Detroit.
GALLOWAY: Isn’t that amazing filmmaking?
GALLOWAY: What was that like in real life? Was it in any way different?
CUBE: Yeah, I mean, it was crazy. Just running full speed through an arena and having all these people looking for you, and chasing you, and hitting the side door, and having them come after you. It just was surreal that they would turn the concert out like that. You know, we never thought that the police would cause the riot, and it was just unreal.
GALLOWAY: What happened after that?
CUBE: They kind of huddled us up and got us all together, and they just wanted to turn out the concert. They didn’t want to do nothing else but run us off stage. And they basically said, you know, “Our kids love you guys. If you sign autographs for them, we’ll let you go.”
GALLOWAY: Wow. Have you had any encounters with police more recently?
CUBE: No, no, no.
GALLOWAY: Do they like you when they see you?
CUBE: I think so. I think so. I think everybody likes a person that stands up for themselves, you know? Nobody likes a punk or a coward. So, you might not agree with me. They might not like what I said, but they got to respect my willingness to say it and do it, and our willingness to say what we feel. It’s not coming from a place where there’s no weight behind it, or there’s no rhyme or reason, it’s coming from a place that’s true and real, and you got to respect the truth.
GALLOWAY: This film was initiated in 2004. Two guys wrote a script, took it to Bill Straus, the producer. He then took it to Eazy’s widow, Tomica. She then took it to New Line and Toby Emmerich. Toby brought it to you.
GALLOWAY: Why did it take so long? And why was Dr. Dre resistant to doing it?
CUBE: Because that version of the script sucked. Yeah, it sucked. It was no good. So we had to jump in there, and say, “Yo, if you want to tell the NWA’s story, let’s tell it right. Let’s tell it how it really went down.” That’s when I got involved, and I got F. Gary Gray, the director, to sign off on it, and then we convinced Dre what kind of movie we were trying to make. He didn’t want us to mess up the legacy; he didn’t want us to make a whack movie. I don’t think people like the Biggie Smalls movie too much, so he didn’t want to do that. He wanted to make quality, something that was a great piece of filmmaking, not just a movie about us.
GALLOWAY: Were you there during the shoot when Suge Knight showed up and ran over those guys?
CUBE: Yeah, I was there that day.
GALLOWAY: Did you see it?
CUBE: No, I didn’t see it. It was at another location. He had came to base camp first and then went to the other location. And then, we ended up leaving, and I heard about it on the freeway.
GALLOWAY: What did you do then?
CUBE: I was just trying to make sense of it, trying to figure out who got hurt, who got hit, what was the facts? It was just fact checking. And, you know, I still didn’t believe what had happened. I just couldn’t believe that the day had started off so cool and somebody was dead.
GALLOWAY: Let’s take questions.
QUESTION: I’m studying English and screenwriting. And my goal is to put together a portfolio of screenplays when I leave here, and I understand you have Cube Vision, and I want to know, what type of movies or scripts are you looking for, Cube?
CUBE: Well, the first question, the kind of movies that we looking for, we looking for movies that are around the $25 million budget or less. And they got to be personal, entertaining stories. The best thing to do is to write about what you know, and if you write about what you know you can always pull those nice little tidbits that hook people, that shows that you know about this world and can bring people into a world that they may not know nothing about. But you know, I’m all about making sure that it’s a very entertaining story. I always start off my scripts like if you were cooking, I know a lot of y’all are familiar with gumbo. I don’t cook gumbo, but I just know it’s a lot of good ingredients in it. And, with a movie, you got to have all those ingredients. What makes this a good movie? Why am I watching this? What’s going to make people turned on about this? These are some of the questions you ask in writing, and submitting it is the same old, regular old process. We got some guys that’s here that we can hook you up with whenever you ready, submit and we’ll put you through the process. But it will be a process. We only going to pick the best. But I just feel like the cream will rise to the top, and persistence and determination is something that you have to build a lot of to really make it, because there’s times when I want to quit, so I know there’s going to be times when somebody coming from school, trying to make it, it’s going to be challenging. But if you love what you do, and you believe in your talent, there’s nothing better than breaking through. There’s no better feeling than breaking through.
QUESTION: On Angie Martinez’s Power 105.1 show, one of your comments was, “Maybe we should’ve put a slave in Straight Outta Compton. Just one random slave for the Academy members to recognize us as a real black film.” And this really stuck out to me because, what’s a black film? You just did a film about where you came from and what you came up in, and I just did a film about a black girl who has a mental illness, which is a thing commonly ignored in our community. We’re both black, and those are both stories to us. So, my question: do you ever think that all of our stories will get told, and do you think that we need the help of the Academy and the Oscars to help get those stories get told?
CUBE: I don’t believe all of our stories are going to get told. I believe we have thousands and thousands of different stories, and textures, and situations, and it’s a lot of great movies in our culture. It’s going to take time to really get all those to the forefront. Some going to make it through, some are not, you know? Comedies in Hollywood is usually the path of least resistance when it comes to being black in Hollywood and putting movies together. They would rather make us laugh than cry, in some respect. So, you know, you have a element of that. But I also think we need to not put so much weight in things like the Oscars, and the Academy, and what other people think of our work, you know? s filmmakers, just being able to create a film is an incredible accomplishment, no matter who sees it, no matter how they see it, no matter if they go and spend $200 million at the box office or they see it on bootleg DVD. That part really doesn’t matter. What matters is: did they enjoy it, did they get what you was trying to say? And movies are more of personal experience than a thing where people have to pat you on the back, give you awards. I said that because I just noticed that the Academy usually looks at those films as authentic — you know, “our slave films are more authentic than our neighborhood films,” but they’re not. But some people, you’re looking at a older demographic — you know, I get all the Oscar movies. And maybe I’m being long-winded. I get all the Oscar movies — Hateful Eight, Revenant — all that comes to my house, and you can watch them, and there’s screeners. You know, those go to the top. What goes to the bottom is, like, Danish Girl, and they go to the bottom of my list ’cause these are not movies that I’m totally into. Now, I’m pretty sure when a older Academy member gets his stack, his list, Straight Outta Compton might go to the bottom of his list ’cause he might feel, “This is not my cup of tea.” So there’s real life things that happen that probably has nothing to do with the overall racist thing. Sometimes it’s a taste thing, it’s a generational thing, so we can't be caught up in that. You got a film you think is important, try to get it made. Whether the Academy is going to understand you, or any of these awards shows are going to pat you on the back for it, don’t worry about that part, you know? Pat yourself on the back, you know what I mean? So, to me, I think we just got to refocus our energy into getting movies made and not really caring if people love them, accept them, or pat you on the back for them, or give you a trophy for them.
QUESTION: I’m curious to know what you think is the main difference in terms of social impact and quality between golden age hip hop and modern era hip hop, and what you think that shift says about the way our culture’s changing.
CUBE: I think when hip hop first started, people were open to it, and groups like Public Enemy and there was groups like Poor Righteous Teachers and all these people who were spitting a lot of knowledge, a lot of history, questioning a lot of societal barriers was starting to be super popular. And even groups like NWA, we benefitted off the social consciousness of hip hop in a lot of ways. But also, I think in about '93, maybe '94, there was a shift in media attention, and in outlets. We used to have MTV and all these ways we can show our videos, and it was these rap shows, and it was everything. And then it became not cool to be conscious; it became cool to just hang out. Escapism rap became the norm. And, when I say “escapism rap”, I mean getting high, get your cars, get your money, get your jewelry, go to the club, have your women, and it just became all about escaping your reality and not making your reality better on a real tip; not just on the have fun tip. And, I think it just became all about having fun, and people wanted to have fun more than they wanted to learn from their music, and that’s where the shift started to happen. And it hasn’t come back, or it’s starting to. You’re starting to see people wanting, and artists starting to go back to having socially conscious flavor in their music, which is fine, which is cool. You know, everybody’s giving Beyoncé a lot of shit, but she’s black. Who else is she supposed to represent?
GALLOWAY: And Kendrick too.
CUBE: It’s like, we should love the fact that we’re not just getting one point of view. That we have this diversity in entertainment, and people are not scared to be themselves, and people are not scared to make people uncomfortable, and that’s all part of it. That’s all part of being free.
QUESTION: Right now in our classes we’re talking about our brands. And a lot of times in Hollywood, if you’re a writer, an actor, or producer, you’re this type, you’re the drama, or you’re the guy who does the blockbusters. But for you, from NWA to Death Certificate to Players Club, you had a lot of different projects that are just multi-faceted. So, how do you continue to revamp your brand to do what you want, rather than what box they put you into?
CUBE: There’s nothing wrong with starting off in a box, but you got to have a plan to come out that box. Sometimes you got to start somewhere. And it’s cool, as long as where you start is not where you plan on finishing. And I just think it’s a thing where artists always has to fight against that, especially when he’s trying to be a artist in a system that’s already rolling, already has its ways of being. Like you’re saying, attaching yourself to the machine. You really have to challenge yourself to come out of those parameters that they put you in, even if that’s your job, you know? You become a writer on a television show, and you see yourself doing bigger and better things, you don’t wait till they tell you, “Here’s the way to do bigger and better things,” you start writing. You start writing that material that you might be doing off to the side. Nobody’s going to be paying you for that, but it could turn into something big. My thing is: stay creative. And just because somebody starts to pay you, that don’t mean all your creativity goes to that, and you don’t save none for yourself to be able to do other, bigger and better things and still follow your dreams even if you start off inside of a box. I hope that’s answering the question.
QUESTION: Hi Mr. Ice Cube.
CUBE: Don’t call me “mister.” [LAUGHTER] “Cube” is good.
QUESTION: What things did you learn in your music career that helped you in your role as a movie producer?
CUBE: That you got to stay exciting. You got to stay interesting. And you have to be able to give the people what you want in your way. And that’s how you, to me, become a person that they love and not just a fly-by night actor, you know? I mean, we have our favorite actors, and you go back even further, and it was personalities. It was James Cagney and it was Humphrey Bogart, and people had their flavor and that’s what you’re going to get. Humphrey Bogart wasn’t trying to be James Cagney and vice-versa. They all had their own thing. So once you figure out what your own thing is it’s all about trying to develop shows, programs that can, I guess, enhance what you already have and what you can add to Hollywood. My movies work because not many people in Hollywood are like me. I know my flavor’s going to work because I just know there’s not a lot of guys like me around. So you got to figure out what’s that about you. What can you do unique and what can you offer to the industry that nobody can do in this way. And not turn into just cookie-cutter producer, cookie-cutter this, but a producer that people say wow, when they do something it’s great or just unique or whatever.